MEXICO CITY -- At the Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexico City, news of the pope’s resignation stunned many Catholics.
“It’s sad,” said Erasto Munoz Moreno, a pilgrim from the state of Puebla. “But we understand why he’s leaving."
His wife, Ingracia, hopes the departure opens the door to a new pontiff from Latin America, “Hopefully from Mexico.”
The Munoz family joined other pilgrims from their hometown who rode to Mexico City on horseback to pay homage to the dark-skinned Virgin of Guadalupe, the Patron Saint of the Americas.
Religious scholars say choosing a pope from Latin America - home to half of the world’s Catholics under the age of 40 - would be a bold statement for the church. It’s also a region where evangelical churches have made big inroads.
“People here without doubt would like see a Latin American or Mexican pope,” said David Egren, a writer for the Catholic News Service. “But it’s really uncertain that would bring people back to the church or get them involved in parish life.”
Pope Benedict XVI’s successor, where ever he’s from, will face the same challenge: keeping more of the faithful from leaving the flock.
Half the cardinals who will vote for the new pope are from Europe. The Vatican expects to have a new pontiff in place in time for Easter.
“I hope whoever it is treats all races and genders equally,” said Rene Hernandez, a pilgrim from Puebla. He was visiting the Basilica with his young son, Emilio, who was dressed like Juan Diego, the indigenous peasant who according to the faithful, the Virgin of Guadalupe first appeared.
Hernandez had one wish for the new pope.
“That he bring peace, peace for all,” he said.